Eco-innovation must pick up pace - Dimas

While European countries might be at the cutting edge of developing environmental technologies the growing threat of climate change means more must be done, and faster, according to the EC.

The European Commission has published a report looking at trends within the environmental industries this week which confirms that the sector is growing rapidly but perhaps not fast enough to meet targets to reduce energy consumption and increase the use of renewable energy.

Based on the EU Environmental Technologies Action Plan (ETAP), the report proposes to focus on a number of priority areas.

The main beneficiaries of ETAP funding in the short-term are likely to be those areas which can deliver the best environmental returns quickly - a continuation of the plan's 'low hanging fruit' strategy which has previously seen cash funnelled into the wind sector.

Environmental innovation in construction, private transport and the food and drink sector is likely to be the main focus of funding over coming years.

The report takes a fairly broad definition of eco-industries and states that they currently account for about 2.1% of its Gross Domestic Product and some 3.5 million jobs in the EU.

About three quarters of these jobs are found in the water and waste management sectors and the remainder in other areas such as air pollution control, soil remediation, renewable energy, and recycling.

Internationally, the European sector fares well and constitutes about one third of the world market share in eco-industries.

"Eco-innovation is a central element in the fight against climate change," said Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas.

"It will bring us a long way towards meeting our targets of reducing energy consumption by 20% and increasing the use of renewable energy by 20% by 2020.

"However, we have less than 13 years to achieve these goals.It is vital that the full capacity for eco-innovation be exploited without delay. Only through eco-innovation can we fundamentally change our patterns of production and consumption. "

European Science and Research Commissioner Janez Potocnik added "Technology is a major part of the answer to our energy and environmental challenges. It has a crucial role in improving energy efficiency, an area where we can and must act now."

ETAP was lunched in 2004 and by 2013 is expected to have channelled some 12bn Euros towards eco-innovation projects.

Sam Bond



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